There is something wrong with the Conservatives….writes YZ Patel
“There’s a lot we need to do in this party of ours. Our base is too narrow and so, occasionally, are our sympathies. You know what some people call us – the Nasty Party.
Theresa May, Chairman of the Conservative Party, October 2002
The problems with inclusivity and diversity within the Tory party and it could be said in politics in general were laid bare again today. On this occasion it centred around the seat of Bexhill and Battle in Sussex. London barrister Suella Fernandes came third in the hustings to replace the retiring incumbent Greg Barker.
Ms Fernandes who is of Mauritian and Kenyan heritage was deemed by the president of the local association and Tory councillor 77-year-old John Barnes formerly a lecturer in local Government at the London School of Economics as despite her ‘wowzer performance,’ “The double whammy of being brown and a woman probably handicaps her still.”
He was merely stating the fact that the party members fail to identify with Ms Fernandes opposed to the winner Huw Merriman a lawyer and councillor in a neighbouring constituency.
Being of their ilk, that is of the countryside, male, middleclass and white and with all the members voting being white and elderly, it is not a surprise to all of us that Ms Fernandes and Mr Cleverly whose mother is from Sierra Leone finished behind Mr Merriman.
The Tory party spokesman issued a vehement denial that ‘people from all backgrounds are selected to be candidates for the party’ and these comments are unacceptable’ no matter how true they are. The ‘See but not speak’ policy.
Cameron ahead of the 2010 elections introduced a A list, the Rooney rule for the Tory Party to push through more ethnic minority and female candidates but have resisted to repeat this for the oncoming elections amid the obvious reticence from local associations such as this. We want people like us, representing people like us. Sorry Dave.
Despite the A list initiative the Tory party remains white, male and middleclass. Out of 303 members only 11 are from the ethnic minorities and only 48 are women.
On the otherside of the divide Labour has 16 elected ethnic minority MPs and nearly double the number of women what the Tory party have. 86 women out of 257 elected.
These issues will always be apparent and these attitudes difficult to change in these particular areas. The Tory party having recognised this are pushing ethnic minority candidates in what is regarded as ‘safe Tory seats’. Nusrat Ghani a case in point selected for the Wealdon constituency next door to Bexhill. But he was selected through the openprimary process whichis a primaryelection that does not require voters to be affiliated with a political party in order to vote for partisan candidates. The Bexhill seat was not supported by a open primary which further marginalised the chances of Ms Fernandes.
According to the ‘constitution unit’ the most inroads within age, gender and ethnicity are unsurprisingly being made by the Labour Party.
Therefore not unexpectedly they have jumped on this story to score political points and trying to hammer home that they represent the new Modern and inclusive Britain. Although they’re doing more than the Tories, much more needs to be done and it is evident each day the idea of someone from a ethnic minority leading the country seems further and further away.